Saturday, June 15, 2013

He has no respect

What do people mean when they say "He has no respect"?

I think they mean that the person in question (usually a child) doesn't respect his parents. But what's really going on is that he respects the truth, and that brings him squarely in conflict with his parents, who don't respect the truth. When a parent lies to his child -- with the intent of "winning" an argument or of protecting his self-image -- he disrespects the truth, and more importantly he disrespects his child. So how is it that the parent expects his child to respect him after first having disrespected his child? Why does the parent not think about *mutual* respect?

For you parents out there that do this, before you lie to your child, consider this: How can your child respect you if you disrespect the truth? The only way for that to happen is for your child to also disrespect the truth, to become a liar.


The same can be said about traditions. Respect for traditions is not automatic, just like respect for parents is not automatic. Traditions deserve respect if and only if they are true/good/moral. People deserve respect if and only if they respect the truth.


I've heard the argument that "the parent is acting in his child's best interests", and another version is "it's for your own good!", but lying is counter-productive to that goal -- lying is manipulation, it's inconsistency, it lacks integrity. Further, it teaches the child that using manipulation is the right way to interact with people.


I've heard the argument that "the parent didn't lie because he didn't intend to lie, he was just mistaken," but he's made the same mistake many times before and he didn't even try to solve the problem so that the mistakes would be prevented going forward. Not taking responsibility for something that you have control over is, well, irresponsible! Further, it teaches the child to live irresponsibly.

Sometimes parents are trying to win an argument as opposed to trying to find the truth. What usually happens is that the parent makes an assumption that (conveniently) "supports" his theory. And then the parent doesn't even try to criticize his assumption. Why does he do that? Because his goal isn't to find the truth -- his goal is to win the argument. The solution to this problem is a change of attitude, a change of thinking.. a change of philosophy.


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Don't dwell on the past

When people say "don't dwell on the past", they typically mean "don't hate yourself for your past mistakes". But the advice is vague because it doesn't say what to think or do about those past mistakes. One should learn from those mistakes by improving whatever flawed methods he has that caused those mistakes. Once his methods are improved, and those mistakes are prevented going forward, then its time to move on -- he's a better person now. So at this point why should a person think about the past mistakes that he won't make again in the future? There is none. But some people continue to think about them. Why? Its because they are *ashamed* of their mistakes.

This raises lots of questions:

Are mistakes shameful?

What are mistakes? How does a person know when he made a mistake? How does a person judge whether or not something was in fact a mistake? How should a person deal with mistakes?

What is shame? Is it a feeling? If so, what causes it? Why does it happen? How does it happen? Does it happen to everyone? If not, what is the difference between the people that it happens to and the people that it doesn't happen to? Among the people that it doesn't happen to, did they learn to be this way or were they born with this attitude?

My answers to these questions say that mistakes are not shameful. One reason is that lots of mistakes cause suffering, and noticing mistakes is great because these times are opportunities for correcting the mistakes, which results in less suffering. A second reason is that the goal of shame is counter-productive to some really important goals like progress! -- the goal of shame is that the tribe is trying to make the individual conform to the tribes rules.

And this raises an important question: What are some common tactics that people use to try to make other people feel shame? What are some common ones that parents use, and teachers, and employers?


Mistakes aren’t inherently bad. It’s only the mistakes that go ignored that cause long-term harm. The mistakes that are examined and lead to progress aren't bad. Actually they led to something really really good.


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